Constitutional amendments recap and election results from Austin, San Antonio and Fort Worth

All proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution passed. Plus, more on Austin’s Prop A, a GOP flip of Texas House District 118 and Fort Worth ISD’s bond election.

By Jill Ament, Kristen Cabrera, Rhonda Fanning, Leah Scarpelli and Michael Marks, with contributions from partner organizationsNovember 3, 2021 11:38 am, , , , , ,

Texas voters approved all eight of the proposed amendments to the state’s Constitution on the ballot on Election Day. There were mixed results for local elections, however.

For the constitutional amendments, they included measures that would allow raffles at rodeos, prohibit governments from limiting the size of religious gatherings, and change the qualifications required for certain legal positions.

Texas Standard spoke with Richard Pineda, director of the Sam Donaldson Center for Communication at the University of Texas at El Paso, about the amendments. Listen to the interview in the audio player above, or read excerpts and details about each amendment below.

Scroll down for local election results from Austin, San Antonio and Fort Worth.

Constitutional amendments

– Prop 1: Charitable raffles at rodeos – Passed

Richard Pineda: “The Legislature had passed the ability for sporting organizations to host those fundraisers. But the way that the language was written, it could have excluded rodeos. And so that lobby and those folks made the case that they needed to be included. So this is a little bit of arcane procedure … but, I mean, this hearkens back to just the way that the framers of the state Constitution drafted the rules.”

– Prop 2: Allowing counties to issue bonds for transportation and infrastructure projects – Passed

– Prop 3: Prohibiting state limits on religious services – Passed

“This is a result of everything that happened during the pandemic. So, putting in a law like this to the state Constitution means that a local authority – a county or a city – cannot put restrictions on people going to religious services. Now that, of course, was ground in the public health need and public health interests that we saw during the pandemic. But but obviously that’s a lightning rod. And I think that in this case, the Legislature and the governor knew that this was going to get a certain kind of reaction.”

– Prop 4: Raising the qualifications needed to become a state Supreme Court or appeals court judge  – Passed

– Prop 5: Giving the State Commission on Judicial Conduct Oversight authority for judicial candidates, not just office holders – Passed

– Prop 6: Letting residents of nursing homes designate an essential caregiver who can’t be denied in-person visits – Passed

“This was driven by the fact that quite a few of the folks who had loved ones in those kinds of facilities weren’t allowed to see them. So you know this one, I think again, probably ultimately not controversial, but the question was, do you risk public health? And the actual legislative policy’s very clear, and it puts in some specific rules [that], if you violate, you can’t actually go in. But I think this was about making sure that residents were not left alone during some sort of a major crisis.”

– Prop 7: Limits on school district property taxes for the surviving spouse of a person who had disabilities – Passed

– Prop 8: Expanding eligibility for the homestead tax exemption to military members killed in the line of duty, not just killed in action – Passed

“That limitation on municipalities, for example, [and] not being able to prohibit religious services, I mean, that’s simply common sense from a public health perspective to say you just can’t have gatherings, right? It doesn’t matter if they’re going to the grocery store or the movies or church. But I think the very nature of how that was written and how it was debated reveals, I think, the the conservative arc that we’re seeing. But I don’t think that the propositions by themselves stand out, and Texas has had a pretty lengthy contemporary history of passing propositions. I mean, it really has to be an outlier for a proposition to fail.”

Local elections

From KUT-Austin:

Austin voters strongly reject Prop A, which would have required hiring hundreds more police

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Austin voters have roundly rejected a local ballot measure that would have required the police department to hire hundreds more officers.

More than 68% of people who voted came out against Proposition A. The measure would have required the Austin Police Department to staff at least 2 officers per every 1,000 residents. Given current employment numbers, Austin would have had to hire anywhere from 300 to 700 officers over the next year, according to city estimates.

Prop A opponents argued that the cost of hiring this many officers could be devastating to the city’s budget. The City of Austin’s Budget Office estimated that Prop A could have cost the city anywhere from $54 million to about $120 million a year, for at least the first five years. (An estimate from the group behind Prop A was much lower, coming in at about $35 million a year.)

While yard signs distributed by the “No Way on Prop A” campaign suggested the city would have to cut funding for parks and libraries to afford more police, it was unclear prior to the election where exactly the money would come from.

But as it became clear Tuesday night that Prop A had no chance of passing, the money was no one’s job to worry about. Instead, opponents of Prop A said Austin’s rejection of the measure was proof that residents are in favor of recent efforts to make changes within the city’s police department.

“Austin answered overwhelmingly tonight. We believe in criminal justice reform. We believe in comprehensive public safety and creating a better city,” Austin City Council Member Greg Casar told KUT. “Tonight’s results show that Austinites have rejected right-wing division and are marching forward to progressive change.”

It’s this “change” that the group behind Prop A, Save Austin Now, built their campaign on. The group argued that recent decisions made by City Council members about how APD staffs, trains and operates its department have made Austin less safe. (While this year the city saw a record rise in the number of homicides, Austin’s violent crime rate fell roughly 40% between 2019 and 2020.)

In 2019, Austin City Council members voted to put a hold on training new police after several former cadets described an academy that employed bullying tactics. The council agreed to restart police courses once training materials had been revamped; that took longer than expected, in part because of the pandemic, and cadet classes did not resume until this summer.

The council also eliminated about 150 vacant police jobs as part of funding cuts they made to the budget last year. This year, a new state law forced the city to refund the department back to historic levels, although the council did not vote to pay for any new police jobs.

APD had struggled to fill open positions before the council made these decisions. The number of officers employed by the city has been falling since 2018, from about 1,850 to just over 1,600 currently.

Save Austin Now, which ran a successful campaign to reinstate laws against camping in public and panhandling earlier this year, seized on these numbers, arguing that a dwindling police force was behind the city’s rise in murders. Representatives for the group collected more than 20,000 petition signatures and got the measure — later called Prop A — on the ballot.

“It’s clear that things are going to have to get worse before they get better as it relates to public safety,” Matt Mackowiak, co-founder of Save Austin Now, said at an election party Tuesday night. “We thought that people in this city were going to demand that we have an adequately staffed police department.”

Mackowiak said that the group’s fight for what he called a “safe city” is not over, and he ended his speech by mentioning a potential run by Casar for U.S. Congress, which would leave a City Council seat open.

“We’re not going to save Austin now tonight, but we will,” Mackowiak said.

From Texas Public Radio in San Antonio:

GOP flips Texas House District 118 in irregular runoff race

Republican John Lujan narrowly defeated Democrat Frank Ramirez in a special runoff Tuesday for Texas House District 118.

The runoff race, set by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, coincided with the state constitutional amendments and local bond elections.

Residents in the district — which includes south and east Bexar County — had to vote twice in order to cast a ballot in the runoff and the general election. That’s because Abbott did not announce the runoff date until the Monday before early voting, and it was too late to be included on the same ballot.

Lujan acknowledged the difficulties saying the lack of being able to vote at any polling site in Bexar County like voters could in the constitutional amendment election made the election confusing.

“It was challenging and I’m not going to be a crybaby about it — you know — I’m upset about it. I know my competitor, he’s upset about it,” Lujan said. “It was two spots to vote in the whole district for early voting in the South Side, one in the North Side. I think we lost a lot of votes and he’s going to claim he lost a lot of votes just by the confusion.”

Lujan, a retired firefighter who now owns a private business and also briefly represented the district in 2016 after winning a special runoff election, said he plans to tackle education and foster care issues while in office.

“Foster children — kids in foster care — the way that’s been handled, that is something very passionate to me,” Lujan said. “I have three adoptive children. I’ve been through the process and there’s a lot of little things that we can do to put a framework in place to make this advantageous for the kids, as well as making sure that we make it easier for the families to adopt children.”

Unless another special session is called by Abbott, Lujan will not get the chance to file legislation until after the next general election in 2022 and the reconvening of the legislature in 2023.

Ramirez previously served as zoning and planning director for the City of San Antonio’s District 7 and as a legislative director and chief of staff for HD 118 under now-former State Rep. Tomas Uresti. Uresti had defeated Lujan in the 2016 Midterm Election.

In his concession speech, Ramirez said he plans to run in the 2022 primaries and challenge Lujan again in the next November election.

“If we can come this far with what we had this time around, I can promise you that in a primary and a general election — where the numbers favor us extraordinarily — we will do it. We will,” said Ramierz. “So this isn’t a night of sorrow. It’s not something that we feel bad about. This is a culmination of all the work that we’ve done the past two months — to come as close as we did, where all odds were against us.”

Abbott took to twitter following Lujan’s win.

Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa said he believes Abbott and the Republican Party unfairly stacked the deck in this race.

“Republicans used insider information about the election date to mobilize voters a week before that knowledge was public — giving the GOP an entire week’s head start,” Hinojosa said. “And election officials at both the state and county level made the process as confusing as possible for voters. Despite all of that, tonight, Texas Democrats are within 286 votes of shutting out Republicans and sending another strong Democrat to the Texas House.”

Hinojosa made note of Lujan’s brief tenure as representative in 2016 before being unseated in the general election that year — something Democrats hope to replicate next year.

From KERA North Texas:

Voters favor $1.2 billion Fort Worth ISD bond by slim margin

Proposition A was leading with just over 50% of the votes on Tuesday evening, according to unofficial election results. The proposition was in the lead by just a 42-vote margin. However, voters sided against the three smaller propositions.

Most of the money in the bonds would go toward improvements and renovations to existing school campuses. Three new elementary schools are also planned.

Fort Worth ISD Bond Election

Proposition A was in the lead with 50.09% in favor. This bond is the largest and would provide more than $1.2 billion for the construction, renovation and equipping of school buildings in the district.

Proposition B was failing with 54.12% voting against it. It would have allocated $98.3 million for the district’s middle school and high school fine arts facilities.

Proposition C was failing with 66.34% voting against it. It would have provided $105 million to build three 5,000-seat sport stadium complexes, including turf and concession facilities.

Proposition D was failing with 58.03% voting against it. This bond would have allocated $76 million to enhance and renovate district athletic facilities. This would have included the replacement of turf at 14 high school football practice fields and 14 high school baseball and softball fields.

Tarrant County Elections

More than 65% of voters were in favor of Tarrant County’s Proposition A — $400 million in bonds for streets and roads.

And about 55% of voters were against Proposition B, which would have provided $116 million to build and equip new offices for the district attorney’s office.

Constitutional Amendments

Texans had the chance to vote on amendments to the state constitution.

Voters approved all eight amendments, including one proposal barring the state from limiting religious services.

Nearly 90% voted in favor of Proposition 6, another pandemic-related amendment, that would give residents in long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes, the right to in-person visits from a designated essential care giver.

City Elections


About 80% of residents voted in support of Proposition A, which would provide $95 million in bonds for public safety facilities.


A $190 million bond package passed by a wide margin. The money will go toward streets, public buildings, sidewalks, drainage and parks.

Four of the propositions got at least 70% support.


Council member Dan Aleman was leading the mayor’s race against candidate Ron Ward with about 60% of the vote. Aleman will be the city’s first Latino mayor, The Dallas Morning News reports.

School District Elections

Allen ISD

Voters sided against two propositions totaling $23.6 million. About 60% of residents voted against Proposition A and Proposition B.

The funds would have covered updates to several facilities, turf and track improvements at Allen ISD athletic facilities and the addition of turf and track at Ford Middle School.

Highland Park ISD

More than 75% of voters were in favor of Proposition A, a voter approval tax rate election. District officials said the election’s approval would generate $3.6 million, which would be used to boost staff pay.

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